Sir Joseph Swan, British inventor

Sir Joseph Swan, British inventor

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Credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Sir Joseph Swan (1828-1914), British inventor. Swan, born near Sunderland, started out as a pharmacist's apprentice before becoming a partner in a firm of chemists. In 1860, Swan developed a primitive electric light bulb using a filament of carbonised paper. As vacuum techniques improved, Swan was able to produce a usable light bulb (1880), but he failed to take out a patent, allowing Thomas Edison to obtain the British patent. Swan improved photography techniques by inventing a dry photographic process (1871) and bromide paper (1879). He also developed a method of squeezing nitro-cellulose through holes to form fibres, which was used by the textile industry.

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